As an Artist

Born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1829, Rogers spent his early years in Massachusetts, Ohio, and Connecticut as his father pursued various business opportunities. In the early 1850s Rogers worked as a machinist and engineer in Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, and Missouri, while modeling figures in his spare time. After being dismissed as a result of the Panic of 1857, he turned to his artistic studies in earnest. In 1858 he traveled to Europe where he studied briefly in the Paris studio of Antoine Laurent Dantan and in Rome with the Englishman Benjamin Spence. He quickly became disillusioned with the prevailing neoclassical style and cut short his studies. Upon his return home the following year he took a surveying job in Chicago and continued his avocation of sculpture. His success with the clay group Checker Players encouraged him to move to New York in late 1859 and attempt a professional career as an artist.

Rogers settled in New York shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War and his series of war-related groups were critically acclaimed and widely popular. After the War’s end he concentrated on narrative scenes of American life and themes taken from the popular theater and literature of the day. He built a reputation as a respected New York artist: he was elected a member of the National Academy of Design and was a founding member of the National Sculpture Society. He was honored with medals at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition, and a retrospective exhibition at the National Academy of Design that same year.

Rogers departed from the usual practice of his contemporaries by working to attract a broad audience for his sculptures. He took advantage of every promotional opportunity, established a workshop for the large-scale production of his groups, and priced them affordably. He sold over 80,000 sculptures ranging in price from about $10 to $25. Rogers produced over eighty different groups between 1859 and 1893, as well as portraits and large-scale public monuments. Hailed as a public benefactor and educator as well as an artist, Rogers pioneered a democratic form of art that put fine sculpture within the reach of the middle class. In 1893 he sold his business to his longtime foreman William Brush and retired to New Canaan, his family home since 1877. He died in 1904.

 

 

 
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